One summer day in 2009, two grandmothers, Gay Riseborough and Mary Trujillo, were out walking with their grandsons in the Dewey-Darrow neighborhood of Evanston. Both lamented that there was not a park nearby for their very young grandchildren, as well as other neighboring families, to gather and play, and something should be done about it. In the span of four years, they worked with Open Lands, Inc. to secure a site and built financial support from friends, neighbors, private donors and local companies in order to fund Grandmother Park, Evanston’s newest tot lot, which opened on November 1, 2013.
Being actively involved in this community, Nature’s Perspective Landscaping has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the neighborhood and with Gay. In the project’s infancy, we were asked to survey a nearby site where a foreclosed, burned down house had once stood and provide an opinion on turning the site into a park. Once a partnership was formed with the city, funds secured, and park plan was approved, Nature’s Perspective was fortunate to be chosen as the general contractor of the project. Groundbreaking began in the summer of 2013. We were pleased with the design furnished to us by the City of Evanston for this challenging space and for the city for coming up with a thoughtful, creative solution with distinct spaces for play and relaxation.
The site, located at 1135 Dewey Avenue, is a narrow, 30-foot wide lot in the middle of a residential block. This narrow lot proved to be a challenging site to convert. Although the house and garage had been removed, we discovered that parts of foundation were still intact, and the basement floor had remained untouched. The entire site needed to be excavated a minimum of 6 inches, and as much as 6 feet some areas to allow for removal of areas of the old floor and foundation walls. A backhoe was used to haul away over eighty yards of soil littered with rubble from the old home. An extensive drainage system was installed to keep the playground from retaining water after rains. The design of the curved walkways created distinct areas for both playground equipment and respite areas. Specially mixed playground mulch was installed to a depth of 15 inches in two playground pits for safety, and ADA compliant ramps were added for accessibility. A small berm was placed for rambling up and down and the park was landscaped with ornamental trees, shrubs and lawn.
The work was completed in time for the grand opening on the day after Halloween. Many of contributors to the park were present on that day and shared in the delight of the Dewey-Darrow neighborhood children and families present, thrilled to have a gathering place all their own for years to come.